Silvis, IL – PGA Tour history was made Sunday afternoon in a small Illinois town just a stones throw from the mighty Mississippi when Jordan Spieth, 19, became the first teenager to win on tour in over 82 years. Although Jordan's win is one for the ages, my big takeaway having volunteered at the Classic is a greater appreciation for the incredible charitable efforts of the PGA Tour.
The youngster forced a three-man playoff when he dropped a sand shot for birdie from a deep green side bunker on the 72nd hole of the John Deere Classic. Spieth went on to win the event on the fifth playoff hole, giving him an $828,000 payday and the opportunity to compete in the British Open at Muirfield this week.
Not only did the low scoring, high action event make for great entertainment, the incredible 2,142 birdies carded at the 2013 John Deere Classic helped raise millions of dollars for almost 500 charitable organizations. Birdies for Charity, an organization unique to the John Deere Classic, has raised a mind blowing $49 million for all participating charities by taking pledges for each birdie made at the tournament. In 2012 alone, Birdies for Charity raised approximately $6.79 million on 2,113 birdies. The John Deere Classic and Birdies for Charity have quietly become one of the greatest sources of generosity on Tour, as the Classic continues to be ranked no. 1 for the most dollars donated to charity per capita of any event in the PGA.
Among all major professional sports organizations in the United States, the PGA Tour is recognized as one of the most active in the world of giving back. Today, the PGA Tour, between its players and tournaments, directly impact more than 3,000 charities, making it one of the strongest charity networks in the world. A prime example of the PGA Tour’s philanthropic efforts is the St. Jude Charity Classic held every year in Memphis, TN. Since the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital partnered with the event in 1970, they have received over $26 million as a direct result. In addition to the massive donations, the PGA Tour has touched the lives of over 7.6 million children across the globe through their involvement with the First Tee Program.
Many fans may get caught up in the fact that a kid too young to drink a beer is a millionaire—thanks to his clutch performance and damn good golf swing. The real story here, however, is what these generous players do with their earnings. Great organizations such as Birdies for Charity make it easy to remember what’s really important, and by personally volunteering at this year’s John Deere Classic, I have gained an appreciation for the importance of charity.